She could have done without the laughing gekkos, but Police Officer II C. LaMour Romine still had a wonderful time getting acquainted with the people of Algeria during a recent Rotary International Group Study Exchange trip to Algeria.
Romine, a Pittsburg State University graduate who joined the Pittsburg Police Department in 2010, said the selection process starts the summer before the scheduled trip. In her case, this was the summer of 2012.
“They asked active Rotary members to select someone to sponsor from Rotary District 6110 who is not affiliated with Rotary International,” she said. “Sgt. Tim Tompkins of the Pittsburg Police Department was my sponsor. He thought I was a candidate, and I believed him.”
Romine was required to complete an application form and submit an essay telling why she should be selected to participate in the GSE program. After these were screened, she contacted to give an interview in Arkansas before a Rotary International panel of about 12 to 15 people.
Her interview went very well and she was nominated as the district’s best choice for the trip. Tompkins said there was just one slight problem.
“There is an age requirement that candidates have to be between the ages of 25 and 40,” he said. “Officer Romine was six months under that requirement, but the group was so impressed with her that they applied to Rotary International for a waiver of the age requirement, and it was granted. This really speaks to her character.”
Team members, in addition to Romine, were John Shriner, Ashley Webb and Terry Wittaker, with Les Crider as team leader. The group left April 11, and returned home May 11.
“It took us 22 hours to get to Algeria,” Romine said. “Our first stop was in Algiers, then we went to Ghardia, which is in the desert. I took my first sand board ride, rode camels and we visited the camel factory where they make camel’s milk.”
Many Americans favor reduced-fat milk, but Romine said this isn’t the case in Algeria.
“They don’t take any of the goodness or nutrition out,” she said. “There are chunks floating in the camel milk, and they’re chunks of fat.”
It was in this area that the group visited a facility for disabled children.
“There’s a high mortality rate among children because of a blood disorder, Hemoglobin H disease,” she said. “It often kills children before they reach the age of 12. They try to help the ones that aren’t that badly affected at the facility, but once they’re 18, they’re on their own.”
After the desert, the team visited Oran.
“It’s very beautiful, but it rained 24/7 while we were there ,” Romine said.
Tlemcen, founded by the Romans in the 4th century CE, was also very lovely.
Page 2 of 2 - “This is one of the only places there where people of the Muslim and Jewish faiths resided in peace,” Romine said. “If I ever go back to Algeria, Tlemcen is where I’ll go.”
Among the sights she saw there, in addition to the Roman ruins, is a tomb dated to 3 BC which holds the bodies of Juba II, last king of Numidia, and his wife, Cleopatra Selene II, best known as the daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony.
Romine said that the Rotary International group was accompanied by a military escort everywhere it went, to guard against the possibility of any problems that might be caused by radical groups. However, there was never any sign of trouble.
“The people we met were informal and very personable,” Romine said. “I loved how accepted we were. They think that Americans are not necessarily approachable, so they may have been surprised by us. Many of the Algerian Rotarians we met had been to the United States, or are sending their kids to school over here.”
The laughing gekkos were a bit of a surprise.
“We called them that because they make a noise that sounds like a child laughing,” Romine said. “One night I was laying there and the laughing gekkos were climbing the walls, the bathroom was a pot by the bed, I was covered in flies and mosquitos, and I thought, ‘Well, this is it’. But there was no time, ever, that I thought this was a bad experience. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and experience for me.”
In fact, Romine, who was born in Arizona and attended a private high school in Colorado before coming to Kansas, may do more traveling.
“The trip makes me feel like I’m missing out,” she said. “I need to travel. So much of Algerian culture is amazing, and now that I’ve met the Rotarians, I’ve got friends for life.”